A Place for Us

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

This is a gorgeous book that explores the tensions and challenges of evolving family traditions and cultural expansiveness.  A culture is explored that needs exploration and it is handled with gentle detail and grace which fosters compassion for the reader.  The attention to detail is impeccable and is sensory engaging.  Further the inner conflict of characters is well demonstrated and confronted as major family events, in this case a wedding, brings conflicts and family members together.  Time moves back and forth during the narrative and 911 is present looming and influencing more prominently the inner conflicts of Muslim characters forcing them to turn from cultural practice to drugs and alcohol to cope.  Secrets and betrayals are unleashed as family strives to transcend them.
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I adored this book and have been talking about it nonstop on my blog Modern Mrs Darcy and my podcast What Should I Read Next? And to anyone else who will listen! It's also a top Summer Reading Guide pick at https://modernmrsdarcy.com/srg
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Note: I drafted this post before the decision issued yesterday in Trump v. Hawaii upholding the Muslim ban.  I enjoyed A Place For Us and felt it was relevant when I finished it almost a month ago--today it feels even more relevant.  No matter what the president and the courts have said, Muslims have a place in this country.  This is our generation's Korematsu and I hope that we feel shame over it sooner rather than later.  If you are of the Muslim faith or from an immigrant family and have stumbled upon this blog, hear me say clearly that you are wanted here.  
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Wow, just wow. It took me a long time to figure out what to think about this novel. It took me a little while to read it, just because I needed the time to savor it. A hugely relevant book about family and culture.
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Families are complicated! 
I was really torn on what I thought of this book.  One day I loved it and then the next day I hated it.  Mirza was able to create characters that you can love and hate all within the same page.  
The book starts out with the oldest daughter's wedding.  Hadia is the typical first born. She is smart, competent, and headstrong.  Huda, the second born daughter, is the good daughter who does what she is told.  Then there is Amar, the youngest son of Layla & Rafiq.  Amar came back for his sister's wedding after not seeing his family for 3 years.   The story goes back and forth in time to tell the story of how this Indian-American family became fractured.  The flashbacks of each of the stories really show how complicated this family relationships really were .  We learn about the good, the bad, and the ugly.  
We discover how each person's relationships to one another affects the family dynamic.  Mirza creates characters that make you really feel for them.  Amar is a needy, emotional, sensitive kid who grows to be the same type of adult.  Then there is Hadia, who assumes the role as the oldest & head of the family, even though she is a female.  Her jealousy and resentfulness for her brother conflicts with her love for him.  Huda was the more sensible one and therefore she didn't get much attention in the book.  (But she is also the middle child so maybe that's why.)  There wasn't much of a plot in this book but the characters were well developed.  
The last part of the book was the best part.  It was told from the Rafiq's perspective.  (Get your tissues for this part!)  Rafiq's focus was his relationship with his son.  It was always known that his daughters would marry and become part of someone else's family but Amar is supposed to the "sun" and the moon in their family.   
This was a heartbreaking story about love, family, disappointment, and redemption.
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I was really curious about this book, the first from SJP for Hogarth. This might sound weird, but I already had an appreciation for Sarah Jessica Parker after reading about her in Chandler Burr's A Perfect Scent and was pretty sure she'd select good books to publish. I'm happy that is true. A Place for us is a gorgeous slow burn of a family saga, the kind I really enjoy reading. The family, Layla and Rafiq and their children Hadia, Huda, and Amar, take turns narrating the story (except for Huda, who remains a bit of a cipher to me), and all of them are wonderful, imperfect people who love each other but don't always know how to do or say the right thing. This is definitely not plot-driven as it's all about the characters and their relationships to one another. The family is Muslim, with parents born and raised in India and children born and raised in California. Culture and faith affect the ways they all interact and the expectations they have of one another. I loved all the characters but ended up with a soft spot for Rafiq, the father, who you only really get to know well toward the end of the book. I think this debut novel will be getting a ton of buzz and that's completely well-deserved. I hope Mirza writes more.
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This is a beautiful novel. It's not just a book; it's a story about the complexities of life - at the heart of it, a family.

Rafiq (aka Baba) and Layla are parents to Hadia, Huda and Amar. The children are first generation Indian-American's, as well as Muslims. Their heritage and religion plays a large role in their lives - how they are raised, what is acceptable and what they push against. The majority of the book is told through the perspectives of Layla, Hadia and Amar. 

Told through alternating points of view - the story jumps from the present (Hadia's wedding day) to the past: Layla accepting her arranged marriage to Rafiq and moving from India to California; Hadia as a child and teenager, figuring out her place in the family; Amar the black sheep, his struggles, loves, disappointments. We see what brings a family together, but also what tears it apart. 

Unlike many books that follow a multi-narrator and multi-timeline technique, this story flows from one person's memory about something, to another person's memory about something completely different. But just because we haven't immediately read all three perspectives about something, doesn't mean you won't. Every memory is tied together with three perspectives, they are simply remembered and recounted to the reader at different times. It makes for a lovely way to see the full picture - to witness the disappointment of one character, only for it to be heartbreak for another one, and awe for the third one. 

"A Place for Us" was divided into 4 parts - and I will admit, the real heart-wrenching, breathtaking part of the book was the end - Part 4. I enjoyed the first three parts, but kept thinking, "something is missing" - I need more. I need to feel what Rafiq was feeling. His character had such an impact on the other characters, that not having his voice made the story feel incomplete.

And then it was his turn. His turn to share his past memories: his turn to shed light on what had transpired under his roof; his turn to admit to fault and failure; his turn to strive to be better. Rafiq's voice in the final act of "A Place for Us" is what made this book so stellar. Without it, I would have missed a tenderness that is so necessary in a family.

The depth that Fatima Farheen Mirza brought to each character, as well as the story as a whole, is beautiful. She is able to shed light on the immigrant experience, the sense of "other" - not only within a community, but also within a family. Amar reminded me so very much of my younger brother - someone who never feels quite at home within the family home, and so desperately doesn't want to cause harm to those he loves, but doesn't know how not to. This is a book about so much love and so much heartbreak. It's both devastating and hopeful at the same time. It's beautifully written and tender and will leave you wanting more.

I'm so thankful for the advanced copy from Netgalley, Crown Publishing and SJP for Hogarth in return for an honest review. This should be on everyone's to be read list. 

A beautiful and powerful read.
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A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

I don't know how attending the prestigious Iowa's Writers Workshop always guarantees it's graduates to succeed in writing masterpieces. The most unforgettable literary fiction that can evoke myriads of emotion are writers who have attended there. This impressive debut novel is no exception. This book about a first generation American, Muslim, Indian family explores the love and complexities of every family dynamic that exists in all of humanity.

The special bonds that exist between mother's and son's is brought to life with vivid detail. The strong bonds that exist between siblings and how birth order effects greater expectations on each individual. Fathers and sons who find themselves in power struggles are expertly displayed. Each character in this novel is inherently good and pure at heart.

The powerful and lasting affects of first love are flawlessly depicted. This is also a story of how well intentioned decisions made for what seems the best for our children can sometimes backfire and cause damage that cannot be undone. This novel also explores how different children are and react while brought up in the same household with identical values each take a different path and each one will conform or not conform.

The heartbreaking estrangement of a child has lifelong consequences. This is a very impressive debut novel that will stay with me a long time. The writing is beautiful and the character development is superb. I wish more novels were written with such a keen eye to detail. I highly recommend this book to everyone. It shows us how much we share in common as humans no matter what cultural or religious faith we belong too.

Thank you to Net Galley, Fatima Farheen Mirza and Hogarth, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group for providing me with my digital copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an E-arc of A Place for Us for review.

I was interested in reading this book as it is the first under SJP's new imprint - which is an odd reason for me to pick up a book, since I'm indifferent to her acting work and fashion taste-making - and also that it had been highly rated by someone I follow on goodreads. I also enjoy books about family dramas/secrets, but that was secondary to my requesting this book.

This novel explores the workaday lives of a first generation Indian-American Muslim family of five. It begins at the wedding of the eldest daughter, featuring the return of the youngest child, and only son. From there, the book is structured into 4 parts containing individual chapters - a weird thing to mention, but the narrative of the book (within each chapter) jerks wildly between years and family perspective, for no reason that I could fathom. We see small moments spanning maybe 25 years of the family. However, the jumbled up nature of the story means that moments that should land, pack a limited emotional punch because you're ripped out of that plot and cast down 5 years in the future out of nowhere. I would liken it to reading a short story collection that has gone through a blender.

Of the five members of the family, I was interested in 4 of them. Sadly, Amar, my least favourite, is the one we spend the most time with/worrying about. We completely skip over the middle child - no real clue what Huda gets up to all book. Hadia, the eldest, endures the weight of her parents expectations, in education, religion, and overall comportment. The parents, Layla and Rafiq are smaller parts in the narrative, until the fourth part, that is non-stop Rafiq.

The writing is competent, but the flow of the story is absent and the scope of the story so small, that I wouldn't recommend this book. The reading experience I would most compare this to is The Casual Vacancy - long, meandering, completely unnecessary to my library.
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A story of a family trying to find their place in a new country and within themselves; finding who you really are amidst the traditions, rules and the religious confines of your family.
Sibling love and rivalry pervade much of Hadia’s tale, as she tries to find happiness and comfort for herself and her siblings.
Excellently written with familiar family issues, while being informative of a culture through its plot and intricate characters.
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NetGalley sent me this book as an advanced copy. In A Place For Us the perspective switches between the 5 members of a Muslim American family as they grow up in the 90's until now. Amar, the youngest, and most rebellious is the focus. This book had some great moments and was trying to say some beautiful things but was about 200 pages too long. The perspective switching was not done very well and I found myself wishing it was a linear story. The pacing in this book was also quite bad and there were times when I struggled to continue reading. think with a better editor this could have been one of my favorite books of the year. Either way, I look forward to seeing what the author does next-she has a tremendous gift and just needs to cut out the unnecessary.
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I loved this story. Hadia broke my heart. Layla broke my heart. Amar broke my heart. I wish I could have learned more about Huda, but hey ... middle child, am I right? ;)
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Highly recommend this poignant novel which centers around an American-Muslim family who has gathered for the oldest daughter Hadia's wedding and the estranged son Amar has returned after running away years ago. The story reflects back in time to the events leading up Amar's disappearance and his feeling of not belonging. You come to know these characters deeply through the author's prose and depiction of even the smallest moments which reverberate as the years unfold. This novel exemplifies one of the reasons I enjoy reading in that you learn about a different culture through the story and characters. But more importantly, in this story we see the universal truths of family and relationships.
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Review published on Booklover Book Reviews website: http://bookloverbookreviews.com/2018/06/a-place-for-us-by-fatima-farheen-mirza-book-review.html
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One of the best books I have ever read. I found myself highlighting full pages. The writing was utterly beautiful. My favorite thing about the book was the structure of the scenes. The sections jumped around to different times/ages of the characters almost randomly. At first, I wasn't sure why it felt so haphazard...but as the story went on it made perfect sense in how we the reader got to see certain events or conversations from childhood come to play later in their life...this is hard to explain but basically...the structure was unique. I cared deeply for the characters and found myself laughing and crying with them.
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5 stars to A Place for Us, an emotionally-evocative and profound story of family and belonging! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I read A Place for Us with the Traveling Sisters, a wonderful group of avid readers here on Goodreads. I was the lone straggler, coming in with my thoughts late on this book, and while I wish I had been able to discuss more throughout reading, I felt such an intense connection to this book, I needed time to process. It was a total pleasure to read this with my sisters and an absolute honor to be chosen by Crown/SJP for Hogarth to receive physical copies for review! 

A Place for Us is the story of an Indian-American Muslim family living in California. At the opening, the family has come together to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding. Amar, the estranged youngest brother, attends the wedding, after being away for years. 

What unfolds is a gentle layering of time, past and present over decades, told in the voices of the family; all culminating in an honest portrait of this complex and loving family, with each member searching for belonging, or “place.” 

A Place for Us was a book to read slowly and savor. One in which to reflect on my own life, on my family growing up, on my parents, and most especially, how small decisions made by family members can leave indelible marks. I felt profound connections to the genuine characters portrayed in this book due to the authenticity in the writing. Culture-aside, the issues at play within this family were universal; however, the culture embedded here was enlightening and thought-stirring. 

Fatima Farheen Mirza has the ability to convey emotions in the most sincere and open ways, and she captures the vulnerabilities in people with honesty and grace. As with all books, each person will take away messages that are personal based on her/his own path towards identity and belonging, especially within one’s own family. A Place for Us is easily one of the best books I have ever read and gets my highest recommendation. 

Thank you to the Traveling Sisters for this unforgettable group read, to Fatima Farheen Mirza for writing this treasure, Sarah Jessica Parker for selecting this book, Crown/SJP for Hogarth and Goodreads for sending us the physical copies for our group read, and to Netgalley.
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This powerful debut novel examines the complicated dynamics within an Indian-American Muslim family living in California, from each perspective, over decades of their lives. Non-linear storytelling slowly builds an intricate web of relationships and emotional history. Just like real families, their story is messy and difficult and tugs at the heartstrings. This book isn't for readers who prefer plot-driven, fast paced stories. Instead, it's for readers that are patient, and want to see characters develop and grow overtime, and see how complicated family relationships affect our lives.
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Every once in a while I read a debut novel that is so perfect because it’s everything I want - beautifully written with characters that have you caring about them from the beginning and a story that will not easily be forgotten. This is one of them. You might read reviews of this book both on Goodreads and in the press and see words like stunning, beautiful, powerful and I wish I could be more original and find some different words but I can only say that this book is all of those things. This is a story of an Indian Muslim family living in California, and of course, it is in so many ways about cultural traditions, religious beliefs, but at its core it is a story of a family, how much they love each other, how they make mistakes and hurt each other, how deeply they feel sorrow and regret for things they do and say, sometimes too late. They are not unlike many of us, whether we are Indian Muslim or not. 

We know at the beginning that Amar, the youngest child in the family, has been gone for several years and that there is  tension between him and his father, Rafiq. As he returns for his sister Hadia’s wedding, his mother Layla and sister Huda as well as Hadia are anxious about how Amar’s  return will be. We move back and forth seamlessly through multiple points of view - their thoughts of the present, memories of the past, the good ones like going to see fireworks and then those not so happy, at various times in their lives as little children and teenagers, the emotions, the fear of what it was like for them after 9/11, taking us back and forth finally moving towards where they are today. This is the intimate way we get to know these characters so deeply. The narrative that perhaps struck me the most, the deepest was that of Rafiq, the father who we come to know in the last part of the book. I found some circumstances so heartbreaking and some so uplifting and I cried at both. It’s hard to say anything more than hasn’t been said in the numerous reviews, so I’ll leave it a thanks to my good friend Diane S. whose review made me know I had to read this book. 

 I received an advanced copy of this book from SJP for Hogarth/Crown through NetGalley.
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I've read only about one quarter of this book so far, but that was enough for me to go out and buy a hardcover copy.  This is a wonderful book about family, finding your identity, honoring family traditions and choosing to make independent decisions. It would be a good pick for discussion
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This is a beautiful book, both visually and in it's content. It’s a slow burn, a quiet novel with such beautifully expressed thoughts that it would be impossible to read without being deeply affected. I’m in awe that this is a debut novel of a 26-year-old author. Believe all the hype and glowing reviews – this book is deserving of all of it.

The book opens in California with the wedding of Hadia, the eldest of 3 siblings in an Indian-American Muslim family. The estranged brother, Amar, surprisingly attends and stirs up deep-seated complicated family relationships. It is clear something has happened in this family to create a rift, and the reasons are slowly revealed as the story seamlessly toggles back and forth in time, in a non-chronological order. The reader wanders through the memories of this family as we experience them through various points of view. Each memory, each perspective, gives us more insight. 

The last 100 or so pages are devoted to a first-person account from Rafiq, the father, and they are riveting. Reading this section tore my heart out and stomped on it, not in a manipulative way, but in a contemplative way. It’s been a long time since a book affected me this deeply.

Although an Indian Muslim family is at its center, there’s such a universality to Mizra’s writing that each reader will find it relatable in some way. Some of the themes include family dynamics, unmet expectations, betrayal, forgiveness, and acceptance. Also explored are the seemingly small, inconsequential decisions that are made every day but which have the power to create a devastasting ripple effect through the decades. It’s about bridging the gap between tradition and the modern world, and the children’s struggle to find a place in the family, in their home, and in the world. The author explores all of these themes with a tenderness and compassion that is extraordinary.

This debut of 26-year-old Mirza is the first book from Sarah Jessica Parker's imprint at Hogarth. I can’t wait to see what the author and the imprint publishes next.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of the book for review.
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